By Calista Chong (18A01A), Lim Jing Rong (18A03A), and Nicki Chan (18S03C)
The bell chimes, signifying the end of another dull lecture. However, any happiness is short-lived as the much-dreaded announcement sounds:
“The next set of lecture notes is available for collection from the photocopy shop now.”
The whole LT heaves a collective sigh at the realisation that a new portion of the syllabus will be starting. However, while most head to their next class or to the canteen for a bite to eat after the lecture ends, the subject representatives have another job to do – collecting said lecture notes from the photocopy shop.
The photocopy shop is located on the left of the Student Affairs Centre. Most bypass it without a second glance, only visiting it when photocopying services are required. Yet, the shop, being instrumental to our lives as students, more often than not bustles with activity.
On a typical school day, one would enter the shop to find two women behind the counter, busy at the photocopiers or stapling stacks of papers. A simple “Hi, auntie” is usually uttered, drawing the attention of one of the women. One can then request for the desired papers, and watch in awe as the auntie somehow retrieves them from among the ubiquitous shelves of papers. After making payment, goodbyes are exchanged and one leaves with the notes, satisfied.
However, what happens when the door swings shut? Do the aunties in the shop carry out the dreary task of pressing buttons on the photocopiers all day, churning out endless stacks of papers for us?
Armed with curiosity, we sought to glean another perspective on the industrious ladies behind the sheaves of lecture notes and tutorials. We spoke to Mr Gavin Swee to find out more.
“The ladies at the photocopy shop are brutally efficient and very good at what they do,” he quipped, when asked to describe the ladies whom he has grown acquainted with. “When you are [lecturing] the syllabus for the first time in a small department… your lecture notes arrive always just in time every week.”
When probed further about how the photocopy shop ladies would react, he smiled wryly and said, “The struggle is real. I always see how last-minute my lecture notes can be sent for printing without getting into trouble with them. They’ll scold me, but they’re very kind about it and still deliver without fail. And for that, I’m very grateful.”
What Mr Swee uttered next made us rethink the true significance of the otherwise laborious and mundane task of printing and fastening. “They’re the conduit of knowledge, aren’t they? The things teachers prepare will never get to students efficiently and effective without their effort.”
With that in mind, we paid the photocopy shop ladies a visit after school to seize an opportunity to chat with them. We visited the photocopy shop and expressed our wish. At first, the photocopy shop aunties seemed a little bewildered by the bid (probably at the fact that we did not start clamouring to collect notes thereafter), but one of the ladies kindly agreed to our request.
We triumphantly made our way past the counter towards the sprightly lady, who was busying herself with stapling sheets of freshly printed paper. Moving around in the shop proved to be a perilous venture, as we had to navigate our way about wires and neat stacks of worksheets – we could not help but think of the narrow space that the ladies have to work in, and with, all year round.
Armed with questions loosely translated into Chinese, we began the interview with her.
What is your name?
Most [students] call me Aunty, but my name is Annie.
How long have you been working in RI for?
11 years, very long hor.
Could you describe your daily routine?
I do around the same things every day. [gestures at the piles of worksheets stacked around the room] Teachers personally submit their printing orders to me, then students collect them.
How does your workload differ from day to day?
When we are nearing school holidays, I’m relatively free. But when the school term starts, I’m usually very busy, around February-March. I also get very busy during the exam period.
Do you enjoy working here?
Of course I like my job! If not, why would I have been working in this profession for so long? I like it because the working hours are good, it’s an 8-5 job. Plus, during the school holidays I get a break, just like the students [laughs].
“Are we done? Not yet? There’s still more? Aiyo okay.”
Why did you choose to go into this profession?
I chose to do this job because the working hours are good, and also because of the general convenience. My friend recommended me to this job as she had been previously working this job. We used to work together, she’s no longer working here – she got married and had kids.
What are some things that have brought you joy working here?
I am the happiest when students take their papers. I derive satisfaction from doing this job, because I get to feel like my work has paid off when students come in to get their papers. So long as you come and collect your papers, I’m happy.
Are there any interesting encounters with students/colleagues you would like to share?
Interesting things? No, but I quarrel with some [laughs]. When I bring the stack of papers down and they don’t have enough cash, it’s very difficult to put them back on the shelves because they’re heavy.
What is one thing you want students to know about your job or yourself?
If students want to get their books bound or worksheets printed, they need to tell me in advance. Most students don’t understand the workload we have, and demand everything instantly. They tell me “I want it now, I want it now” because they have classes to attend. I understand that, but there are usually still many papers that have yet to be printed that take precedence.
Quite often, we go through life without fully appreciating those around us. We forget to extend our gratitude beyond our immediate family and friends. Just as our Aunty Annies help us by sending out our worksheets on time, we should help them too by being understanding. Rather than waiting till the last minute to print our worksheets and assignments (cough cough PW WR), we should inform them of our requests prior to the deadline. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile and a bright, “thank you!” to show your appreciation to the people whose hard work help keep the school up and running.